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Dermalogica’s Jane Wurwand—the Woman Who Started a Cult

November 22, 2021 Sophie Pitt
November 22, 2021
Jane Wurwand

With over 50 years of experience, Dermalogica founder Jane Wurwand has revolutionized the skincare industry. After moving to the US with nothing but passion for change, Wurwand founded Dermalogica in 1986, refusing the use of prevalent common irritants, artificial colors, and fragrances often sold off as “miracle ingredients” in any of her products. While initially frowned upon, today Dermalogica is a sought-after skincare brand sold in more than 80 countries worldwide, training over 100,000 professionals per year around the globe. To bring the history of Dermalogica, as well as her own personal journey, to life, Wurwand has released her debut book, Skin in the Game: Everything You Need Is Already Inside You, as a love letter to the industry that has shaped her life.

Skin in the Game, as described by Wurwand, is "not a memoir, but a transparent story" and was created to inspire readers to look toward a new future, confident in their choices, their career, and their impact on the world. Reflecting on the process of writing her debut book, Wurwand reveals she felt the global lockdown was her "prompt from the universe" to share her stories of the industry.

With the book placing a heavy emphasis on understanding what the industry means to you as an individual, not what society says it should be, Wurwand touches on her personal feelings on this subject. "I went to beauty school and worked in the beauty industry. I taught classes to certify people as beauty therapists, and I have worked in beauty salons, yet I've always hated the word beauty," Wurwand says. Strong in her ways and opinions, Wurwand was once described as "the woman who started a cult" by The Sunday Times. She continues, "I wanted to differentiate what was visibly attractive and what was self-care and healthcare and wellness. I find the word ‘beauty’ misogynistic and objectifying, very gender-specific when used to describe someone." It is for this reason Dermalogica has never used the word beauty to describe their work, with Wurwand referring to herself as a skin therapist rather than a beauty therapist. She adds, "Skin therapist has become a term in the industry; that's something I'm most proud of. Skincare now has a distinct place because we moved away from being lumped together with hair, nails, and makeup."

"I wanted to differentiate what was visibly attractive and what was self-care and healthcare and wellness. I find the word ‘beauty’ misogynistic and objectifying, very gender-specific when used to describe someone."
By Jane Wurwand, Founder, Dermalogica

Separating beauty and skincare is one of the many accomplishments Wurwand and her team at Dermalogica have pioneered. When Dermalogica was founded in 1986, listing ingredients on products was not required, meaning several harmful chemicals could be inserted into skincare treatments and go amiss to those using them. "Everyone seemed to have a secret ingredient," Wurwand says. "They always had a strange backstory—made in Bulgaria in their grandmothers' bathtub. It all seemed disingenuous. After working with several clients with various skin conditions, I wanted to educate people on good skincare, such as peptide and serums." This is precisely what the team went on to do, introducing three boosters and three serums as their first products. "We were more famous for the things we didn't do more so than what we did do, for example, not using jars due to contamination issues," she continues. “It's fantastic how far the industry has come and how much information is out there now. When I first moved to the US, only seven states had licenses for skin therapists; now every state does."

While celebrating the release of Skin in the Game, Wurwand and Dermalogica are also celebrating 20 years of their in-demand product, Daily Microfoliant. Wurwand uses this product as her central anecdote for inspiration: "I was once in Japan, burnt out from teaching, and I went to a hot spring at Mount Fuji to try and find inspiration for new products, but nothing was coming to my mind, and I almost missed the very thing that inspired Daily Microfoliant." She elaborates, "In the cab home I thought back to a ritualistic Japanese treatment I'd received, I liked that the product was made of powder and this inspired the birth of Daily Microfoliant." Although it wasn't as simple as creating a powder-based product, this is where Wurwand strongly emphasizes keeping your eye out for inspiration in even the mundane: "The marketing team were very frustrated at my idea of a powder product as we don't use jars due to contamination issues. I thought my idea had fallen through until I was sitting in an Italian restaurant, adding some Parmesan cheese to my dinner, and I found myself excitedly shouting at my co-worker, 'That's it! This is what we need to use for the Daily Microfoliant.'" A perfect example of seeking inspiration in the most mundane of objects, Daily Microfoliant has been stored in a shaker-like container throughout its 20 years on the shelf.

Life lessons are a continuing theme within Skin in the Game, with Wurwand admitting the person who shaped her career the most was an 80-year-old client she had very early on named Mrs. Heard. “She came to see me for a treatment every week,” she reveals. “I could tell she was short of money, so I explained she did not have to come so often. It was then she told me she would like to come as often as she does as it’s the only time she received human touch anymore.” Since this experience, Dermalogica has worked with human touch constantly in mind, a sense that is now more important than ever after almost two years of not being able to touch our loved ones as we would have pre-pandemic. She continues, “Some might think that my work is frivolous, vanity-promoting, superficial nonsense preying on women’s insecurities, [which is] a comment said to me at a dinner once. That is not my work at all, I frame my work as having a huge and impactful purpose on human connection, kindness, health, and independence.”

It’s with this message Wurwand closes out her conversation: “You must constantly ask yourself ‘Is this the truest life I could be living, is it speaking to my heart, my soul, and my mind?’ If I didn’t believe I was doing that in my soul, I couldn’t have had this career for my whole life and loved it throughout.” She carries on, “Fall in love with your work as you become more skilled and love what you do for people. You hit the jackpot when something interests you, you perfect your skills and fall in love.”

Skin in the Game is available to purchase now with all profits going to Found, an organization set up by Dermalogica to support and educate local entrepreneurs.

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